Trademarking VS. Copywriting
Trademarks protect your name, symbol, logo, brand, phrase, name, image or all of the above and more. If approved for your trademark, you claim ownership of using that mark as your own and nobody could legally use it without your permission. You will usually see a TM or a R next to a trademark.
A "TM" can be used without filing your trademark (it means the mark is not registered yet, but you have intent to do so in the future). But beware, just because you're using a TM doesn't mean you own it, someone else in the world might have the same mark as you and could of had it before you.
A "R" next to a mark means it has been approved and it is legally registered.
Trademarks can become expensive and you're not guaranteed of approval. If you're not approved, you do not receive a refund. Trademarking can also takes years to be approved.
As for copyrighting, I will place this quote from wikipedia as it gives a better summary:
"Copyright (or ©) is a form of intellectual property which gives the creator of an original work exclusive rights for a certain time period in relation to that work, including its publication, distribution and adaptation; after which time the work is said to enter the public domain. Copyright applies to any expressible form of an idea or information that is substantive and discrete. Some jurisdictions also recognize "moral rights" of the creator of a work, such as the right to be credited for the work."
In the apparel business, you might specifically want to protect your graphics so you would copyright them. With experience, most apparel business' that have been around for a long time don't bother copyrighting their apparel graphics because they are always changing it to keep up with the trends.
So in short to answer your question on which is best for an apparel business is hard to answer as everyone has different situations. BUT, I have mostly seen most brands using a LLC as the entity and attempting to trademark their brand, but many do not bother to copyright.
Copyrights - Transferring ownership from the designer to you.
If you are using an outside designer, make sure you are covered legally. Copyright always stays with the creator, and can only be transfered in writing. So, make sure you have a contract with any outside creative, that any work paid for by you, becomes the property of your company. Don't do any handshake deals !!!!
See below for "sample" contract of transfer...
Contracts for every occasion: Total assignment of copyright
This is a sample form for a total assignment of copyrights. This particular form assigns (transfers ownership) of all the rights of copyright. By using this form, the assignor (the person making the transfer) does not keep or retain any rights. If the assignor wants to retain any rights at all, they must be clearly specified in the assignment.Sample
ASSIGNMENT OF COPYRIGHT
This Assignment is made this ___ day of ________________ between, ___________________("Assignor"), and______________________("Assignee") whose address is ____________________________.
For valuable consideration, receipt and sufficiency of which are hereby acknowledged the parties hereby agree as follows:
1. Assignor represents and warrants that he/she is the sole owner of all rights in and holds the complete and undivided copyright interest to the following Work:
[Insert a precise description of the works to be assigned. Include all identifying details, including where and when it was previously published. If a hard copy is available insert at the end of the description "as show in the attached exhibit A" and mark and attach the hard copy If the works have been submitted for registration, the identification should include the registration number of the copyright registration application and the title thereof. To avoid any misunderstandings, a copy of the actual registration should also be attached to the assignment as an exhibit].
2. Assignor does hereby sell, assign, and transfer to Assignee, its successors and assigns, the entire right, title and interest in and to the copyright in the Work and any registrations and copyright applications relating thereto and any renewals and extensions thereof, and in and to all works based upon, derived from, or incorporating the Work, and in an to all income, royalties, damages, claims and payments now or hereafter due or payable with respect thereto, and in and to all causes of action, either in law or in equity for past, present, or future infringement based on the copyrights, and in and to all rights corresponding to the foregoing throughout the world.
3. Assignor agrees to execute all papers and to perform such other proper acts, as Assignee may deem necessary to secure for Assignee or its designee the rights herein assigned.
In witness whereof, the parties have executed this Agreement, effective this _____ day of __________________________ , ___ .
I personally use http://Legalzoom.com, because of it's simplicity.
But, feel free to look online for what works for you.
Important Notice: This is sample advice for illustrative purposes. This sample may not be suitable for your particular circumstances and different agreements or legal arrangements may be necessary depending on your jurisdiction. Therefore, you should not use this sample, or any part, without the advice of competent legal counsel. MAKE SURE YOU CONTACT A LAWYER FOR YOUR LEGAL NEEDS.